When former First Lady, Nancy Reagan passed away on March 6, 2016 this story came to mind regarding my meeting her and her husband.
I was working as the Los Angeles California area director in 1988 for Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries. Prior to his arrest for his involvement in the Watergate break-in, Mr. Colson was a special assistant to President Richard M. Nixon.
The Bel Air Presbyterian church in Los Angeles invited me to speak to the congregation after one of their Sunday morning services. I didn't know it at the time that this church was where President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy were regular attending members.
The church was a strong supporter of Prison Fellowship for years. They provided numerous volunteers who participated in various in and out-of-prison outreaches.
I was scheduled to speak to the congregation regarding an upcoming Christmas program for inmate's children entitled, Angel Tree.
As with all Prison Fellowship employees I was issued a small gold lapel pin in the shape of a bruised reed. I wore it proudly, explaining to anyone who asked that it represented a certain scripture relating to what type of work I was involved in. (Isaiah 42:3)
I prepared for my day at Bel Air Presbyterian like many others in the past: dark suit, white shirt, matching tie and of course my bruised reed pin on my suit jacket's left lapel along with dark sun glasses to block out the strong California sun.
I drove into the parking lot of the church not knowing that President Reagan and his wife, Nancy would be attending the service.
As soon as I pulled into the parking lot a very serious looking man stopped my car and asked me to roll down my window. I thought it was strange for a church parking attendant would ask me to do something so out of the ordinary. As soon as this man peered into my window, he looked directly at my left lapel pin and
said, "Secret Service agents park over here."
"What?" I said to myself. "Secret Service? Am I dreaming? Does this guy think I am some under cover agent?" He didn't even give me a chance to tell him I wasn't a secret service agent. I wasn't about to second guess this man so I followed his instructions and did what I was told.
I parked my car and walked into the church lobby where I was met by about ten men all dressed the same way I was with dark suits, white shirts, matching ties along with sun glasses and small gold pins on the left lapels of their suit jackets.
"Stand over there," one of them barked at me. Just as I did as he commanded, President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan came walking into the church! I was awestruck. President Reagan stuck out his hand to shake mine and said, "Thanks for all your help. You're doing a great job." I almost passed out from the shock of it all.
I always admired President Reagan since I first became a Christian in 1981. He was just elected president and represented my new found faith that miraculously transformed me from a drug addicted radical liberal
Democrat into a card carrying, very conservative, nation loving, God fearing
Don't ask me how that all happened but it did and I am still marveled at how Our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ changed me from the inside out.
I didn't say a word to anyone around me and just made my way into the church service and sat through the service and later presented my program as planned, as I am sure President Reagan and his wife went back to their home in Bel Air or to their ranch in Santa Barbara. I often wondered if he ever asked what happened to the extra secret service agent he had at the church.
One would have hoped that the security around President Reagan would have improved since the assassination attempt on his life in 1981. I guess I must have slipped through the cracks.
However, I will never forget how honored I felt to have met such a wonderful man, even though it was in such a very peculiar way.